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“A theatre is the most important sort of house in the world, because that’s where people are shown what they could be if they wanted, and what they’d like to be if they dared to and what they really are.“
Tove Jansson was one of my favourite childhood authors and I do remember being inspired by reading this particular chapter about the meaning of theatre in ‘Moominsummer Madness’ as a child. When a student recently asked me why I decided to become a Drama teacher, my response was, ‘I really like working with young people.’ How much enjoyment can you have with students exploring a simmering cauldron of ideas and issues? The answer is that it is bottomless, the opportunities, the creativity, the laughter and sometimes the performances that make you sob because they are so moving.
In our Drama lessons we aim to give every child the opportunity to develop their imagination, confidence and empathy towards others. We believe that the Creative Arts enable students to explore a wide variety of social, historical, cultural, political and religious ideas in a creative and safe environment. Drama also gives the opportunity for students to challenge and question the world we live in and to bring about change.
At GCSE and A’ Level we find that our student’s performances can be both emotive and intellectual as they are insightful reflections of the world that we live in. This work even makes its way back to those who seek for it to be seen, for example a devised exam piece about modern slavery was based on the Panorama documentary ‘The Hunt for Britain’s Slave Gangs’ and the barrister involved was gladdened to hear that the students were inspired to both create and share their learning about this hidden part of our society. Theatre is not always about entertaining and making us laugh, it can engender great change, as Bertolt Brecht said: ‘Don’t expect the theatre to satisfy the habits of its audience, but to change them.’
In its most basic form, Drama is about playing a role that might be outside of your comfort zone, where you are forced to confront something challenging and change it. In fact Augusto Boal created his own theatre practice to include the use of Image Theatre as he often worked with a diverse group of actors and non-actors who needed to be able to communicate without language. It is therefore important to ensure that students learn that acting is not primarily about learning lines and standing on stage to deliver them, it is about communicating ideas and telling stories to your audience; the most important people in the room. As Boal himself said: ‘We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.’
I believe that our students remember their experiences in Drama lessons fondly because some of their most seminal moments come from discovering something about themselves or about other people. In Year 13, in their last lessons together, students often reminisce about their learning because it’s shared memories that bind students together, whether in class, the creation of their own work or through being on stage in an extra-curricular performance. An alumni described being in their 6th form class like ‘being in a company’; another took to the stage on their last night to tell the audience that they felt accepted and valued for who they were by us as a department and how this had supported them through school.
I think it’s also important to share how performing is a genuine skill, that your ability to engage with an audience is a matter of your pursuit of excellence in your chosen Art, whether it is acting, singing or dancing. When anyone says that drama is not an ‘academic’ subject, it can make a student feel ashamed and frustrated about their ability and who they are. It really is an archaic lie, that Drama can only be academic if you attach some form of written element to validate it and I feel that Dr Jess Hartley from The Royal Central School of Drama says it best:
‘So if I want to learn how to tell a story I might look at Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or JK Rowling, who changed my understanding of what stories can be through their writing and their speaking and their being…but I might also go to the Aboriginal Australians whose culture of storytelling speaks of environment and identity and it is DONE…not written about, it is done. It is the articulation of the knowledge that is clever bit, not the mode of that articulation.’
Finally, despite the absolute battering that the creative arts took from Covid19, our actors, singers and musicians have continued to find joy in their love of learning and our GCSE and A’ Level groups are really thriving. We are looking forward to returning to three productions a year including the Senior Play at Christmas, A Spring Musical and a Junior Play in the Summer Term. Despite all the odds Years 7, 8, 9, 10 & 12 performed their own Showcases in the last couple of weeks of term and we couldn’t have been more proud.
We take our students to the theatre on a regular basis and in 2019 – 20 we went to see ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ and ‘The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe’. Theatre trips are a requirement as they form part of the students’ written exam and provide vital inspiration for Devising Exam work. Last year the students attended an in-house workshop run by the mask practitioner Vamos and one on preparing for auditions with professional actor and alumni Nari Blair-Mangat. This year a sibling of one of our Year 8 Drama Students and a graduate of Rose Bruford Theatre School led an insightful workshop on Directing for both film and stage.
In the past we have also run overnight trips to the RSC to watch plays and attend related workshops which have been supremely beneficial. We will be organising other practitioners to come in in order to broaden the students’ understanding of both current and core Theatre Practitioners where and when appropriate. Students are also encouraged to visit the theatre in their own time for research purposes, inspiration and of course enjoyment.
Our students take many different paths post A’ Level, some go to university and some to theatre school. Past students have gone on to study acting at ALRA, Bournemouth, the Oxford School for Drama, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Mountview, Rose Bruford & St Mary’s. Others have gone on to study Theatre Studies at Bristol, East Anglia, Exeter and Leeds. Some take single honours in Theatre Studies and others joint honours, past students taking English, French, Psychology and Sociology; there isn’t a prescribed combination! Other students take their study beyond BA (hons) level taking an MA in Directing and there are a good number of students who study the technical side of theatre too, lighting, sound, stage, costume, set design and stage management.
Actor, Animation & VFX, Art Department, Assistant Director, Background Artistes, Camera, Cinematographer, Choreographer, Construction (Major Features), Costume Designer, Director, Grips, Investigative Journalist, Lighting Technician, Locations, Make-up and Prosthetics, News Presenter, Props Designer, Producer, Production, Production Accountant, Post Production, Radio DJ, Reporter, Rigger, Set Crafts (Carpenters & Scenic Painters), Sound Designer, Stage Combat Choreographer, Set Designer, Special Effects, Stage Manager, Stunt Co-ordinator, TV Presenter & Writer.
Want to know more about what you can do and what you can earn? Try searching the Bectu website:
Drama Clubs: We have Lower School Drama Clubs run by the 6th form students and Year 9 Drama Club is run by Ms Govier.
Creative Crew Club: Mr Anastasi the Director of Art and Ms Govier collaborate on a set design for the three productions, and a team of A’ Level artists paint the design. Mr Stensel in Design Technology has created all sorts of small props and larger set pieces for our productions.
Technical Crew Club: A group of students led by Year 13 students and overseen by Mr Pickering in Science who collaborate with Ms Govier as to the needs and technical design of the production in terms of lighting & sound design.
The Winter Production: It has been a tradition to perform a play that is aimed at the older more experienced actors in the school from Years 10 – 13
2010: ‘King Lear’ by William Shakespeare
2011: ‘The Country Wife’ by William Wycherley – an adaptation by E Govier
2012: ‘Julius Caesar’ by William Shakespeare
2013: ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare
2013: ‘Dame Alice and the Mysterious Disappearance of the Head’ – the 400th Anniversary play by E Govier commissioned by the school
2014: ‘ The Women of Troy’ – an adaptation by E Govier
2015: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ – an adaptation by E Govier
2016: ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller
2017: ‘Pride & Prejudice’ an adaptation by E Govier
2018: ‘As You Like It’ an adaptation by E Govier
2019: ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Strange Case of the Circassian Dagger’ by E Govier
2021: ‘The Merchant of Vegas’ – an adaptation by E Govier
The Spring Production: It has been a tradition to perform a musical at this time of year with Years 10 – 13, although some productions have included Years 7 – 10
2009: ‘Guys and Dolls’
2010: ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’
2011: ‘Little Shop of Horrors’
2012: ‘Into the Woods’
2015: ‘The Threepenny Opera’
2016: ‘High Society’
2017: ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare – a musical adaptation by E Govier, N Kiernan & J Trevorrow
2022: The Baker’s Wife by Joseph Stein and Stephen Schwartz, licensed by MTI
The Summer Production: It has been a tradition to perform a play, however we have produced musicals as well at this time of year with Years 7 – 10
2009: ‘The Insect Play’ by the brothers Capek
2010: ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding adapted by Nigel Williams
2011: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in an adaptation by E Govier
2012: Romeo and Juliet in an adaptation by E Govier
2013: ‘The Tempest’ in an adaptation by E Govier
2014: ‘Alice’ by Laura Wade
2015: ‘Daz 4 Zoe’ by Robert Swindells, adapted by Joe Standerline
2016: ‘Arabian Nights’ Adapted by Dominic Cooke Licensed by Nick Hern Books
2017: ‘Wendy and Peter Pan’ by Ella Hickson. Adapted from the book by J.M. Barrie. Performance Licence granted by Nick Hern Books
2018: ‘Floreat Featherstones!’ by E Govier
2021: Showcases (Singing, Dancing & Acting) for years 7, 8, 9, 10 & 12
2022: Robin Hood by E Govier
Miss E Govier (Director of Drama)
Mrs L Nicolaides (Second in Department)